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Edition #19, December 1, 2005

Today...Thirty Years Ago

Photographer: Gene P. Schaeffer


                                                                                                                 Photo 2005 by Gene P. Schaeffer

Best of Both Worlds

                                                                        The written report of train accident reads

                                                                        Montour Railroad Company

                                                                        Mr. J. E. Schomaker - Superintendent. Date of Report: December 1, 1975

                                                                        Kind of Accident: Derailment. Place: Mile Post 26 - East of Cowden.

                                                                        Date: December 1, 1975. Time: 10:15 A.M. Speed: 8-10 M.P.H. 

                                                                        Weather: Clear - 36 degrees. Conductor: D. A. Lockerbie

                                                                        Brakeman: Hufnagel & Pankyo (Both P&LE Men) Engines: 83-73-74-81

                                                                        Engineer: D. J. Lane Direction Moving: West  Cars in Train: 35 loads/0 empties 

                                                                           Initial            Location from Head End           Capacity             Contents

                                                                        PC 427712                       3rd                                70 T                      Coal

                                                                        PC 427389                       4th                                70 T                      Coal

                                                                        PC 428627                       5th                                70 T                      Coal

                                                                        PC 429038                       6th                                70 T                      Coal

                                                                        PRR 672632                    7th                                70 T                      Coal

To most people, train derailments are ugly marks on a railroads reputation. In 1975 there was a 19 year old who found passion in the Montour Railroad and its battered reputation.

Wind the clock backwards to 1971-1972. This teenager, whose parents home on Marilynn Drive in the southwestern Pennsylvania community of Bethel Park first discovered railroading via Norfolk & Westerns famed Connellsville District. The Connellsville District sliced through a small 2 to 3 mile corner of Bethel Park. Located high on a fill behind our new home, the Connellsville District separated two new housing plans nearly dead center between Longview - Mile Post 46 and the West End of Horning - Mile Post 45.

The Connellsville District was a impressive title that was used to erase the heritage of the 111 main track miles of Pittsburgh & West Virginia. My first introductions to the Pittsburgh & West Virginia right of way were that of a young boy of perhaps 10 or 11 years of age when the family moved from the Beechview section of Pittsburgh, to a new home in the Meadow Craft Plan of Hardt Homes during the mid 1960's. After moving, Mom often joked about our realtor and how he had his information mixed up regarding the railroad and public transportation serving Bethel Park. Realtor Joe Renzie, according to mom stated the railroad ran trains every few hours and the bus line ran every hour. In reality, the buses ran every few hours and the railroad ran trains continuously.

As the 1960's turned into the 1970's, fascination with the railroad was demanding more attention. Exploration of the Connellsville District became fascinating. West of our Marilynn Drive home was a red roof station still housing a Agency-Agent, CTC signals, a small yard, a branch line leaving the main track at the station, a Fairmont motor car kept inside a steel shanty for the signal maintainer, a unidentified railroad overpass at the east end of the yard...and railroad police that highlighted both the pro's and con's of railroading. Not only did the Connellsville District have a neatly maintained physical plant, but boy could they run trains. Morning...Noon and Night there were trains. Windows and dishes rattled as westbounds climbed the hill to Longview while eastbounds gathered slack in a thunderous roar right behind our home dropping down the hill into Horning and Bruceton.

There was no doubt the Norfolk & Western could put on  a show. The teenage railroad buff was fascinated with those mile long freight trains with locomotives from both the Norfolk & Western as well as locomotives from the Western Maryland. Add in grain trains with their helpers, locals, motor cars, and hardly a hour went by each day something of some nature was moving over N&W rails. Mysteriously, near Longview, a second rail line sliced through the heart of Bethel Park crossing over the Connellsville District at the east end of Longview Yard. The physical plant of this railroad was no where as impressive as that of the Connellsville District. The roadbed was ragged looking with cinder ballast and 90 pound rail. Unusual looking locomotives, often in 3 and 4 unit consists with 2 digit numbering and silver exhaust stacks passed this way perhaps twice weekly, seemingly only after dark and carrying a single name on the locomotives...MONTOUR.

Cabooses from the Montour Railroad were mostly green and followed a endless parade of Bessemer & Lake Erie and Montour hoppers, both loaded and empty. There was something magical about the Montour Railroad. As time progressed in the 1970's, a drivers license allowed exploration of both railroads. Emphasis was usually placed on the Montour. In 1974, High School friend David Dudjak impressed this teenager with impressive photographs of Western Maryland locomotives knee deep in snow in Bayard, West Virginia. For Christmas in 1974, Santa Claus brought a 35mm Mamiya/Sekor camera enabling this teenager the ability to document the railroads of his youth...the Montour and the Connellsville District of the Norfolk & Western.

During 1975, derailments on the Montour Railroad had turned into daily happenings. Deferred maintenance had finally caught up to the Montour. Locomotives and coal cars were destroying the roadbed with each derailment. Through it all, management had to keep 3 coal producing mines and one preparation plant serviced each and everyday. Service was of utmost importance. Management...the Superintendent and Train Dispatchers acted like magicians during derailments. Keeping the mines and preparation plant properly serviced was difficult during times when the roadbed crumbled under each passing train. Often...after a derailment, the objective was getting locomotives behind a derailment quickly so as to pull the rear of the train back away from the derailed cars allowing Penn Erection unrestricted access to the derailment for rerailing. In addition, locomotives behind the derailed cars afforded the railroad the opportunity to keep railroad service to a particular mine. And thus on that first day of December 1975, as Montour Extra 83 west enters the horseshoe curve west of Muse Junction nearing Mile Post 26, five loaded coal hoppers derail due to a broken rail. Starting with the 3rd car behind the locomotives, one load of coal turns over on its side, then 2 loads jackknife accordion style and two loads derail staying upright and in line with the roadbed.

Montour's Superintendent informs the Montour Train Dispatcher that the next #4 crew that was called on duty for 1:00 P.M. needs to detour over the N&W. Montour's Superintendent further instructs the train dispatcher to telephone the N&W immediately and get N&W pilots called to meet the Montour #4 crew at Southview (George Transfer - N&W Mile Post 69) and detour them east to Salida, (N&W Mile Post 46 via the Mifflin Branch at Longview). Norfolk & Westerns - Rook Train Dispatcher notifies his Superintendent of Montour's request. The Rook crew caller puts out a 2:30 P.M. call for N&W Conductor Waters and Engineer Aston Keller who will taxi by N&W company van to George Transfer, board the Montour engines and detour them over the N&W the 23 miles to Longview. Just after 3:00 P.M. Montour Extra 80 east arrives Southview, pauses, lining itself in on the transfer leading up to the N&W Connellsville District, just east of N&W Mile Post 69. Montour Conductor Bill Ceyrolles and P&LE Engineer Ron Garvan are in charge of the Montour crew.

At 3:20 P.M. the Montour engines...Extra 80-78-77-75 with red caboose 33 depart George Transfer on the N&W in a hail of heavy exhaust and roar of those 12 cylinder 567's as transition is manually made as the SW-9's get up to track speed on N&W's immaculate right of way. Following the SW-9's as they detour over the N&W is no picnic. The new 4 lane Route 50 is still under construction from Cecil to Bridgeville and the windy, old Route 50 takes its toll on staying ahead of the Montour crew. At N&W's - West End of Gladden, a distant photograph of the detouring SW-9's is taken. Rolling along at 40 or so Miles Per Hour towards Rook, this is the last photograph of the detouring Montour engines before Longview.

According to the train sheet from the Rook Train Dispatchers Office, the Montour SW-9's rolled through Rook at 3:55 P.M.. Twenty five minutes later, at 4:20 P.M. the SW-9's arrived Longview where they were photographed off the Baptist Road overpass as they neared Longview Station. The eastbound cantilever signal at Longview displayed a diverging "clear" signal for movement up onto the Mifflin Branch. The power switch for the Mifflin Branch was lined for the branch and also was controlled by the Rook Train Dispatcher.

Luckily, those early photographs of this detour came out o.k...Luckily, 15 years after the detour, the N&W leaves the Connellsville District behind and the new regional Wheeling & Lake Erie takes over saving the Connellsville District from possible abandonment...Luckily, the new regional Wheeling & Lake Erie wants to lease out the former office building at Rook and contacts a local P&WV Historian inquiring if he is interested in preserving a basement full of old railroad records...and luckily, in those records are the train sheets from the Rook Train Dispatchers Office and in particular a specific train sheet from December 1, 1975 is found which neatly illustrates the events involved in the detour movement of the Montour Railroad Company over Norfolk & Westerns' - Connellsville District. And neatly on the "Eastward" side of that December 1, 1975 train sheet...18 columns over on the top half of train sheet representing the 55 miles of Connellsville District between Rook and Pittsburgh Junction is a specific entry dedicated to the Montour Railroad Company and detouring engines, 80-78-77-75. Then on the bottom half of the same sheet, 11 columns over representing the "Eastward" side and the 56 miles of Connellsville District between Rook and Connellsville is yet a second entry for the Montour Railroad and Extra 80 East and the movement between Rook and Longview.

And the unique part of this now historic December 1, 1975  N&W train sheet, is the illustration of N&W's famed "hotshot" trains...DJ-12...CJ-12...PJ-01...along with Locals and Yard Crews...then a unusual entry of "Passenger Extra" behind N&W's very own Bicentennial painted 1776 coming west out of Connellsville with 10 passenger coaches all entered on the same train sheet as that of the Montour Railroad detour.

And on that Monday December 1st, 1975  Norfolk & Western's - Connellsville District and the Montour Railroad Company became the "Best of Both Worlds" for a teenage railroad buff if only for 60 minutes and 23 miles...

Gene P Schaeffer

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